The Ultimate Guide to MBA Concentrations in 2020

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of master’s in business graduates increased from 146,406 to some 185,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This advanced degree continues to increase in popularity not only in the U.S., but around the world, with schools offering distance learning options and multiple areas of specialization.

With so many online Master of Business Administration programs available, it can be challenging to identify which one is the best fit for you, and even what areas of specialization to pursue.  Choosing the right MBA program and more importantly MBA specialization, is paramount to your future success no matter what career you choose. There are a number of factors you can take into account to help you make your decision. Whether or not a school offers the option of attending classes online is just one. There’s also job prospects, industry trends and earning potential to consider.

You’ll want to do some research to determine how each of these factors play into your career goals. For example, if pay is really important to you and you’re looking to offset the cost of your degree, it’ll interest you to know that MBA alumni who left positions where they were earning around $50,000 a year and entered into full-time MBA programs saw an 80% increase in their salaries upon graduation, according to a 2016 Bloomberg Businessweek survey.

This resource guide will offer you information that can help you pick out the best MBA program concentration for you.

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Syracuse University’s Online MBA

  • Top-ranked online MBA
  • GMAT waivers for experienced professionals
  • As few as 24 months to complete
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UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School- Online MBA

  • #1-ranked online MBA
  • GMAT waivers available for experienced professionals
  • As few as 18 months to complete
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American University’s Online MBA

  • No GMAT required
  • Six focus areas available
  • Complete in as few as 15 months
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University of Denver's Online MBA

  • GMAT waivers for experienced professionals
  • As few as 21 months to complete
  • Concentration options available in marketing and finance
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Rice Business- Online MBA

  • Ranked No. 1 in the nation for graduate entrepreneurship education by the Princeton Review
  • Residential Intensive Learning Experiences (ILEs) hosted on campus
  • Faculty remain active in research and publish insights in Rice Business Wisdom, an online business periodical
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The University of Dayton- Online MBA

  • As few as 12–15 months to complete
  • GMAT waivers available
  • AACSB accredited
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University of California, Davis- Online MBA

  • On-campus MBA ranked among the top 50 MBA programs by U.S. News & World Report since 1996
  • Students can complete the program in as few as 24 months
  • The Graduate School of Management at UC Davis is AACSB accredited
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Pepperdine Graziadio Business School- Online MBA

  • Top-ranked online MBA—ranked 21st by U.S. News & World Report
  • GMAT waivers are available to qualified applicants
  • Scholarships available
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8 Online MBA Programs with GMAT Waivers

Many business schools require applicants to submit Graduate Management Admission Test or GMAT scores to be considered for admission. Some students, however, may be hesitant about continuing their education for fear of taking the GMAT. This standardized test can be costly and challenging, coming right out of college.

There are some universities that offer GMAT waivers based on a variety of factors. For example, if you have some work experience or a high undergraduate GPA, you may qualify for a waiver. If you are hoping to earn an MBA but taking GMAT is holding you back, consider applying to any one of the schools that below. They offer GMAT waivers for their online MBA programs.

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School Name GMAT Requirement Program Length Accreditation Status
Syracuse University GMAT Waivers Available 24 - 36 months AACSB Accredited
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill GMAT Waivers Available 18 - 36 months AACSB Accredited
American University No GMAT Required 12 - 24 months AACSB Accredited
University of Denver GMAT Waivers Available As Few as 21 Months AACSB Accredited
Rice University GMAT Waivers Available 24 - 36 months AACSB Accredited
University of Dayton GMAT Waivers Available 12 - 24 months AACSB Accredited
University of California, Davis GMAT Waivers Available 24 - 36 months AACSB Accredited
Pepperdine University GMAT Waivers Available As Few as 20 Months AACSB Accredited

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Highest-Paying MBA Concentrations

There are a variety of potential jobs that an MBA concentration can help you land. When you begin your search for an MBA concentration, you’ll want to consider earning potential in addition to how that concentration aligns with your personal interests and career goals. Earning a graduate degree is a significant financial investment that may impact you well after you earn your degree, but it shouldn’t stop you from obtaining your MBA. Do some research to find out how much you can earn working in a specific concentration area, then ask yourself whether your potential earnings can help you cover the cost of the degree you intend to get.

Some MBA concentrations make more money than others. Here are some top-earning MBA concentration jobs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data:

  • Human Resources Managers made a median annual salary of $113,300 in May 2018. An MBA in Human Resources Management could lead to a job as a Human Resource Manager.
  • Financial Analysts made a median annual salary of $85,660 in May 2018. An MBA in Finance could lead to a job as a Financial Analyst.
  • Accountants and Auditors made a median annual salary of $70,500 in May 2018. An MBA in Accounting could lead to a job as an Accountant or Auditor.

Which MBA Specializations are the Most in Demand?

Occupational Employment for the overall labor market is expected to grow 5.2% from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you want to venture into a specialty area with a high job growth rate, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are some of job titles to consider:

  • Information Security Analysts – Employment for this group of professionals is projected to grow 32% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS. An MBA in Information Technology could lead to a job as an Information Security Analyst.
  • Medical and Health Service Managers – Employment for this group of professionals is projected to grow 18% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS. An MBA in Health Care Management could lead to a job as a Medical or Health Service Manager.
  • Financial Managers – Employment for this group of professionals is projected to grow 16% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS. An MBA in Finance could lead to a job as a Financial Manager.

Do You Need to Pick an MBA Focus Area?

Offerings for specialized MBAs are not only numerous, but they are growing in popularity. MBA focus areas give students the opportunity to continue their education and acquire the skills and knowledge necessary within a specific field. While you do not necessarily need to pick a focus area to be successful, knowing what your focus area is before you begin your MBA studies can help you with the trajectory of your career. Think of it as being intentional.

The Importance of MBA Career Concentrations

The primary benefit of an MBA career concentration is the in-depth knowledge and unique skillset you’ll obtain. A career concentration incorporates the fundamentals of a traditional MBA program with elective courses that dive into your concentration of choice. Opting to focus on a particular concentration can help you stand out in a pool of competitive job seekers and land higher-paying jobs within the industry that you chose to concentrate on.

Are There Concentrations in Online MBA Programs?

There are universities that offer immersive online MBA programs that are similar if not identical to their traditional on-campus classes. In some cases, traditional courses are recorded and provided to the online cohort, and in others, the curriculum is created and distributed specifically to the online students. If there is school that offers a stellar MBA program that piques your interest, find out if that program is offered online.

How to Choose the Best MBA Concentration for You

Prospective MBA students have a lot of research and work to do when it comes time to choose the best program and concentration. While no one person can tell you how to choose the concentration for you, here are some factors to consider when you’re ready to make your decision:

Online or On-campus Study

Would you like to attend in-person classes, or does the flexibility of an online MBA program fit your lifestyle? The answer to that question will help you narrow down your options.

Specialized MBA or General MBA

Some students choose a general MBA degree to learn about the core principles of business and keep their skills sharp and transferable. But if you’re dedicated to making an impact in a specific field or advancing your career in a particular industry, a specialized MBA might be a good fit for you.

What will you do with your degree?

Your MBA concentration should speak to you and your professional goals. Ask yourself where you see yourself after graduation and how obtaining this MBA concentration will help you get there.

Top MBA Concentrations to Consider

While there are more than dozens of MBA specializations to choose from, most business schools do not offer every concentration. Remember that your choice boils down to your specific education and future job goals. If you are just getting started with your search, here are a few MBA concentrations to consider:

MBA Concentration in Finance

A finance concentration will teach you how the financial world operates and how to solve financial problems within business. Over the course of your degree program, you may touch on subject areas such as analytics, accounting, statistics and corporate finance.

MBA Concentration in Accounting

An accounting concentration will teach you how to prepare and examine financial records, including tax forms. People within this field are responsible for ensuring that all accounting operations within an organization run efficiently. This concentration can also help prepare you to obtain certification as an accountant or auditor, if you aren’t already. Over the course of your degree program, you will cover subjects such as finance, mathematics, and analytics.

MBA Concentration in Marketing

The internet has increased competition between companies creating a demand for proficient marketers to develop a competitive advantage. A marketing concentration will teach you how to execute marketing strategies using both digital and traditional platforms. Some typical classes include marketing strategy and digital marketing management.

MBA Concentration in Management

This management concentration offers students a customized education focusing solely on managerial education as it relates to the workplace. A management concentration teaches business administration skills alongside corporate strategy and analytic applications. Classes offered for this concentration include organizational management and business ethics.

MBA Concentration in Consulting

An MBA in Consulting will prepare you to help future clients manage their companies more successfully. Well-known consulting firms like McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company seek expert employees to assist their clients in finding solutions to specific challenges within their business. Classes for this concentration include corporate strategy and informed decision making.

MBA Concentration in Business Analytics

Those who pursue a business analytics concentration will learn how to use big data to drive decision making. This degree program includes the study of statistical data and analysis to help companies with next steps for their business strategy. Common classes included in this concentration are statistics, data analytics, and more.

MBA Concentration in Health Care

Those who pursue a health care concentration set themselves up to fill positions as health care executives in a variety of industries. An MBA in Health Care will teach you about the complexities of the current health care system and how to navigate them successfully. Classes required include human resource management and organizational behavior.

MBA Concentration in Project Management

The project management concentration teaches you how to plan, control, and execute specific goals within a team. A project manager works to advance a specific task or event towards completion, within a company’s human and financial resources. Core subjects for this concentration include managerial accounting and organizational behavior.

MBA Concentration in Operations Management

An operations concentration teaches you strategies and solutions to manage and organize companies efficiently so that they reach their maximum production output. The focus ranges from overall operational procedures to product design and quality control. Typical classes in this concentration include supply chain management and IT systems management.

MBA Concentration in Strategy

The strategy concentration teaches you to become an effective leader within the business world. This concentration requires you to master business theory and understand what factors influence a company's success or failure. Corporate strategy graduates take classes such as business analytics and study many case studies to understand real-life implications.

MBA Concentration in Cybersecurity

Protecting customer information and offering the latest technological stopgaps is a top priority of many companies. An MBA cybersecurity concentration will prepare you to address growing problems such as data breaches and identity theft. Classes for this concentration include computer science and computer and network security.

MBA Concentration in Human Resources

Companies are looking for employees who can seamlessly take over a leadership role within their human resources (HR) departments. The human resources concentration prepares you to lead an organization with a combination of interpersonal and analytic skills. Typical classes typical for this concentration include strategic management and human resource development.

MBA Concentration in Information Systems

The information systems concentration will provide you with a combination of business and advanced technical skills. Graduates understand the current flow of information technology and how data transitions between companies. Classes for this concentration include computer science classes, as well as statistics, finance, marketing.

MBA Concentration in Real Estate

A real estate concentration prepares you to oversee real estate and property management operations successfully. Those with a degree in this area can transition into real estate brokerage, investment management or business development. Typical classes for this degree include accounting and marketing for real estate.

MBA Concentration in Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurship concentration will teach you how to build, launch, and successfully secure funding for new business ventures. As an MBA in Entrepreneurship student, you will develop a knack to network with other entrepreneurs and increase corporate innovation while facing limited resources. Topic areas with your curriculum may include managing growing ventures and multicultural markets.

MBA Concentration in Supply Chain Management

Within this concentration, you will learn how the current supply chain systems work and develop an understanding of the intricacies between business, suppliers, partner relationships, and geographical locations. Classes for this degree include supply chain management and logistics.

MBA Concentration in Sustainability

Students who receive an MBA sustainability concentration open the door to a wide range of careers in the environment sector. This degree program teaches you how to develop solutions for sustainability challenges in the environment and related industries. Classes included within this degree include sustainability systems and risk management.

Executive MBA

Executive MBA concentrations are typically completed within two years while you work a full-time position. Companies offer this option to their executive team members to help them advance their business understanding and apply what they learn back on the job. Classes for this degree include corporate strategy and economics for business.

General MBA

Students who pursue a general MBA concentration want to keep their skills transferable. A specialization is not needed if you want to learn more about the big picture of business and finance. Classes for the general MBA include a wide range of business classes like finance, accounting, and marketing.